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informal exclusions and similar

In the light of recent news, once again, about informal exclusions - most vocally lately (March 2012) from Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England in her useful report, "They Never Give Up On You" giving findings from her School Exclusions Inquiry (read the full report here as a pdf) I thought it would be worth adding some of the 21 pages of case study evidence that Carole Chapman (then Head of Research at and I presented to Ofsted back in 2007.

Six Case are still highly relevant today (3/20/12) and present a clear picture of how children found (and still find) themsleves "unofficially" out of education:

Student A - Moved boroughs

Student B - Children who disappear from the system

Student C - opting for Home Education to remove a the threat of prosecution

Student D - Out of Education long term

Student E - All schools full

No blame is allotted here, just a simple narrative in each case. In all these and many other examples it seemed that informal arrangements were masking a really substantial problem, which Maggie's report has returned to. Ofsted by the way concluded that it couldn't investigate any of this ("outside our remit") unless specifically instructed to do so by the (then) DfES which in an era of targets and numbers was never likely to happen, and didn't.

In passing, you could map out the re-engagement of these children as saving money for everyone from child justice to later benefits and health, with higher income tax contributions etc. Our figures at the time suggested at least a £250,000 re-engagement saving - so with 100,000 or so children unofficially or informally "out" there is a saving of some 100,000 x £250,000 = £25 billion. That would assume being "back in" would be re-engaging for all of course, which would never be the case in every circumstance, but half is not unreasonable and even half of £25bn is a lot of money...

Along with this sheaf of evidence we presented a researched briefing paper that Carole largely wrote. Her executive summary read:

This briefing paper is the first in a series of discussion and provocation papers intended to address the issues of social inclusion through education, learning and technology.

Education has been a cornerstone of political party policy for many years. The Social Inclusion Unit was formed in 1997 to report directly to the Prime Minister. It has now been replaced by a task force. Every Child Matters1 (2005) was a landmark document as it attempted to put social and educational inclusion at the top of the political agenda. That the policy itself is directed at a more equal and inclusive society is not in doubt, but implementation of that policy appears to be fragmented leaving those children on the margins of society in an even worse predicament than before.

Research suggests that more children than ever are being marginalised from learning with as many as 100,0005 thought to be missing from education. The long term consequences for young people and for society are bleak.

This briefing paper offers 4 key concerns:

  1. As many as 100,000 children in England are marginalised through their lack of participation in education. Worryingly, estimates vary widely and it is apparent that Government simply does not know the true extent of the problem.
  2. Hundreds of thousands of children do not attend full time school based education. We know that at least 50,000 (DfES figure) young people truant every day whilst others are excluded, some are ill, some are carers, some have mental health problems, some are on part time timetables and some are not on a school roll.
  3. There is a lack of transparency and accurate data regarding the number of young people on the margins of society. The current education funding regime discriminates against this group of young people. This situation is worsening, not improving.

In summary, the policy framework designed to support societal change has become the unintentional instrument of exclusion and marginalisation. This is clearly an unacceptable state of affairs. The provision of support for those very many who are irrevocably outside the school system is neither available nor equitable. Urgent action on a national, political, policy and strategic level is needed.


As Chair of Trustees my foreword to that pamphlet read:

For seven years our flagship project has been providing full time education for those many children irrevocably outside school - as a result of circumstances or behaviour. It has been a massive research project, and has been spectacularly successful. Thousands of lives have been turned around very cost effectively. A succession of education ministers, from David Blunkett through Estelle Morris to Charles Clarke have applauded and encouraged the project.

We know that building alternative, effective, affordable and engaging provision for those many young people outside of formal education is complex. It requires dedication and ingenuity. We also see the quite remarkable success rates with our 1,000 or so young persons each year. We are clear that a substantially larger number of them might be helped - a project that for many has been the last resort has re-engaged them into learning, as they go on to college, employment and even university.

But our frustration has been to watch as policy increasingly marginalises, and damages, the 100,000 or so people outside of school. Evidence collected from over 3,000 families, 200 staff working in the field, together with 22 Local Authorities and feedback from 80 Head Teachers across 34 Local Authorities suggests that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, policy changes are not working effectively for inclusion. The money is in the system, but it has become divorced from the very people it should be helping. We are clear from our evidence that recent changes are worsening the situation for this group of young people.

Economically, this is a catastrophic waste; ethically it is an immoral division; by any standards, it is a disgrace.

Stephen Heppell


informal exclusions and similar

this page authored, and last updated, by Prof Stephen Heppell - latest changes made on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 10:13 AM